Friday, April 22, 2011
Thought is Devout
It's Good Friday, and Earth Day. A quarter of Americans believe Barack Obama is an alien. The rate of natural disasters due to global warming has increased 400 percent. Obviously we are not doing well, afflicted, you could say.
Here is some sorely needed balm for our afflictions, some home-grown wisdom from the most eminent of American thinkers, Ralph Waldo Emerson. It's about prayer, about the ties between the seemingly disparate and divided, about redemption, and it is a discouragement to the proud who think they have all the answers. Emerson was a Platonist in that he regarded the ultimate ground of reality to be the world of ideas, and he was way ahead of his time in identifying the ways science is ultimately about faith.
"The problem of restoring to the world original and eternal beauty is solved by the redemption of the soul. The ruin or the blank that we see when we look at nature, is in our own eye. The axis of vision is not coincident with the axis of things, and so they appear not transparent but opaque. The reason why the world lacks unity and lies broken and in heaps, is because man is disunited with himself. He cannot be a naturalist until he satisfies all the demands of the spirit. Love is as much its demand as perception. Indeed, neither can be perfect without the other. In the uttermost meaning of the words, thought is devout, and devotion is thought. Deep calls unto deep. But in actual life, the marriage is not celebrated. There are innocent men who worship God after the tradition of their fathers, but their sense of duty has not yet extended to the use of all their faculties. And there are patient naturalists, but they freeze their subject under the wintry light of their understanding. Is not prayer also a study of truth - a sally of the soul into the unfound infinite?"